Governmentality and counter-conduct: A field study of accounting amidst concurrent and competing rationales and programmes

Thomas Ahrens, Laurence Ferry, Rihab Khalifa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This paper contributes to the diverse and growing stream of accounting research on Foucault's notion of counter-conduct, which is broadly concerned with the uses of accounting in the development of alternative ways of governing. Its key problematic lies in the roles that accounting can play in the intertwining of particular practices of governing, for instance, by underpinning practices that facilitate political campaigning, making specific policy choices, and creating new administrative arrangements. We illustrate our argument with some of the ways in which Newcastle City Council (NCC) used accounting to manoeuvre between the programmes of localism, centralism, devolution, austerity, and marketisation to develop novel forms of counter-conduct in response to austerity funding cuts. We show how accounting was used to underpin a multi-facetted counter-conduct that sought to profile itself locally and nationally against austerity as a highly visible and controversial programme of government. However, accounting also served to undermine NCC's own counter-conduct, for example, through its engagement with longer established programmes, such as marketisation, and by rationalising the council's administrative responses of austerity cuts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100686
JournalManagement Accounting Research
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Accounting
  • Austerity
  • Counter-conduct
  • Devolution
  • Governmentality
  • Local government
  • Localism
  • Public sector budgeting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Information Systems and Management


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